by Simon McInnes

The course had put in quite an effort on the watering front, evidenced by the fact that the good to firm racing surface compared very favourably with the hard to rocklike conditions inside and outside it. The meeting could have done with, and perhaps deserved, a few more runners, but it did draw a pretty big crowd and the racing was competitive. And from a personal point of view, it was a rare occurrence of turning up at a South-East meeting and not seeing Viking Lily run.

Fynmores Hunt Race
Only four runners lined up but it did result in a cracking finish. It might have been a three-way battle had Rose Grissell not marred her first ride by toppling off of Mr Chataway four out. This left Erins Pride and Sound Gossin duelling over the last two fences and they were both foot perfect, going as fast as their modest engines would permit, with never more than a couple of inches between them. In the end Erins Pride edged it, a good effort given that he seemed to pull quite hard early on.

Sound Hound and Vader Systems Ltd Restricted Race
Seven went to post and the inconsistent Nubro landed the spoils, giving him a seasonal tally of two wins, a place and three pulled ups - all in races of similar quality! The market was odd, as obvious non-stayer Shoveontommy was prominent in it, but in the race he faltered late on in a manner no less dramatic for it's predictability. Spiderdore made a mess of the first two but jumped to the lead at the fifth and was still there, more or less, when pulled up after the fourteenth. The stewards report that he 'appeared lame' suggests the ailment was minor and that he will bounce back. This was when Nubro took his chance and skipped clear, never to be caught. Serial placer Glenmont plodded on from the back for second, despite not handling the faster ground. The same can be said for The Bishops Sister who was third.

Calcutt Maclean Standen Mens Open
Only four again, and two of those were veterans that had never really been up to this class in points. The main conflict was almost decided when Ballinure Boy belted the fourteenth. However, the leader was Brackenheath who had not yet made his obligatory error and at the very next fence, he almost got rid of Philip Hall. At this time in-form pilot Andrew Hickman kicked on, and the contest was effectively over. The separate race for third went to Caddy Man, who was very patiently ridden (i.e. tailed off) but struggled on late in the day to obtain the best possible placing by unconventional means.

Farm World Ladies Open
Just four runners, but they made for a much more evenly matched quartet. The non-finisher was Night Thyne, who has the ability but unseated for the fourth straight time. He had all but dumped his rider, who made a great recovery, at the third and Night Thyne showed his displeasure by making absolutely certain at the next. The win fell to Kincora, despite being niggled along on occasions during the race. He was eventually well ahead of Burntwood Melody, who is not quite up to opens but has been well placed to make the frame in small fields. Unfortunately Over The Country was dismounted lame on the run-in. He was entitled to come on for his last run, returning from a very long lay-off, and his old form suggested that he might have been a worthy competitor in Open company around the South-East.

The Peter Rylands Memorial Confined Race
Call Home and Peyton Jones took along a bigger field for this race. In his heyday, the former could have picked up this lot and carried them, but age and a seasonal debut combined to prevent a heroic return to the winner's spot. Kenny Davis returned to form by finally remembering how to travel at his fastest and jump safely at the same time. Alas, this lasted only seventeen fences, but Paul Blagg sat tight when the horse got the last all wrong, by which point the lead was unassailable. Runner-up was Lovely Lynsey, who gave up the outside to no-one and was quietly poodling around in the rear for over two miles. Whether a more adventurous ride would have achieved more than reduce the margin of defeat is debatable. White Smoke was third, a position he occupied for a large chunk of the race as others overtook and dropped behind him with alarming frequency. His win last week was in a race of dubious quality, and this is probably about as good as he is. Debutant flat winner Rheinbold, who was not even entered in the maiden, travelled reasonably and jumped well to start with, but took a liberty with the eighth and ninth, and then hit the deck at the fourteenth. If he can get his jumping together, there may be some progress to be made.

Grants Cherry Brandy Maiden Open Race
A whacking great field of fourteen went to post for this, although even those that had shown ability had done so less often that they had disappointed. A prime example of this was winner Hatch Gate, who had been fourth in a decent race but never otherwise completed. He and fellow grey Warrbow were in control three out, but that challenger lacked the turn of foot to open his account, even though Hatch Gate gave him every chance when clouting the last - Philip York proving very stickable in the plate. Scotch Bob, ridden by clerk of the course Peter Hickman, spoiled his chance by jumping off more and more to the right (watch to see if the course is racing the other way round next year!) but hung on to third place as his main challengers compiled an impressively varied means of negotiating the fences with great difficulty. The only one of these to actually hit the deck was Mac's View, but the others survived more by luck than judgement.